Mitch Hanson Memorial Scholarship provides opportunities for CCSD alumni
Thanks to the Mitch Hanson Memorial Scholarship, named in memory of a beloved Smoky Hill High School teacher, Cherry Creek Schools students who had Hanson as an educator have been able to honor his legacy.
The Mitch Hanson Memorial Scholarship is committed to providing college financial assistance to Smoky Hill High School seniors who have demonstrated an excellent work ethic, a desire to pursue post-graduate education and a generous spirit. Mr. Hanson considered himself fortunate to be a part of the Smoky Hill Community as a Social Studies and AVID teacher, Drumline coach and Mock Trial sponsor. His spirit of compassion, caring and generosity greatly impacted Smoky Hill students and their families. Emilie Crow, Avery Philips, and Xavier Hadley are recent recipients of this scholarship and shared how they are working to make the world a better place.
Emilie Crowe, who is currently attending veterinary school in Utah, had Hanson as her teacher for Global Studies while she was at Smoky Hill. Inspired by his legacy of positivity and inclusivity from playing music in class to taking goofy pictures to cheer up students, Crowe recalls Hanson as an easy teacher to look forward to.
“Mr. Hanson was always encouraging us to have a positive spirit and energy,” Crowe said. “He showed us at a young age how easy it can be to positively impact those around you, and it was through his compassion that he was always able to bring people together.”
Crowe graduated from Smoky Hill and went on to CSU, studying biology and ethics as she prepared to enter veterinary school. Her experience with ethics gave her the ability to open her mind to different perspectives and understand where future clients might be coming from if they disagree with the care she might recommend. She recently got to experience working with pregnant mares and being on ‘foal watch.’
“It was a cool experience to get assigned a mare and be part of the journey from testing milk calcium levels to seeing the foals being born and making sure the foal is hitting its milestones. It gives a great sense of pride,” Crowe said.
Passionate about giving back to her community, Crowe has volunteered with Special Olympics, Adam’s Camp and other organizations. She has been fortunate to work with rural communities to help provide rabies vaccine clinics and opportunities to expand access to pet health care in the area.
“If you’re able to build a community by having outreach programs and volunteering, it brings more understanding between people by bringing the community together,” Crowe shared. “If we can all have a little bit more empathy and understanding, we can have a stronger community.”
Avery Phillips was a strong student at Smoky Hill, but one day in World Civilizations with Mr. Hanson, she was having a bad day and announced with a chip on her shoulder that she didn’t want to do her assignment. Struggling with troubles at home, Phillips was surprised that her teacher was quick to meet her ‘teenage attitude’ with kindness.
“He just calmly told me that was fine. I didn’t need to do the assignment right then, and could just take a break and play Fruit Ninja at his desk for a bit,” Phillips shared. “My teenage self didn’t have the ability to name exactly what I needed when I opted to rebel against the assignment, and it stuck with me how responsive and compassionate he was with me in that moment.” He spent the class intermittently checking in on her to get a more complete picture of what was causing her to feel so upset. “ He affirmed all of my feelings and granted me an extension on the assignment. I felt cared for.”
Phillips just completed her Master’s in Speech Language Pathology (SLP) and moved to Portland, OR, to begin her Clinical Fellowship on an interdisciplinary pediatric SLP team. She fell in love with her pathway of purpose because of how the field bridges hard sciences with a compassionate approach to individualized healthcare.
“I love that my profession has equipped me to be uniquely specialized to be with someone in their journey to communicate,” Phillips said. “I’m able to advocate for others and I deeply recognize and value the vulnerability required to create shared trust between me and my clients, just like I learned in Mr. Hanson’s class. Vulnerability allows me to extend an outstretched hand to let the other person know it’s okay and that they have someone who will listen to them and support their journey.”
Phillips enjoyed her time at Smoky Hill, explaining that it’s a special school where she was lucky to have teachers who took the time to notice and care about her. She shared that the culture of the school celebrates and upholds diversity and meets students where they’re at, a quality she hopes to bring to her practice.
“My experience at Smoky taught me the deep impact that an adult going the extra mile to care can have on a child. It also was a place where I was shown the power of flexibility, empowerment and vulnerability,” Phillips said. “It really aided in my ability to view life holistically and grow into my role as a healthcare professional.”
Xavier Hadley’s spirit of kindness and patience have their roots in his time with Mr. Hanson as a drumline instructor. Recalling a man whose favorite color was orange and who spend countless hours building relationships with his students, Hadley credits his teacher with his desire to pay forward that generosity and patience.
“He was very funny and animated, just a joy to be around,” Hadley said. “The way he was able to see and understand students, and guide us musically, personally and academically, was incredible.”
Hadley’s keen interest in learning more about the human experience – from ethnic studies to English and Creative Writing to to Experimental Humanities and Social Engagement – has brought him to Harvard, where he is working towards his Ph.D in Creative Practice and Critical Inquiry in music. The inspiration of a teacher can make a huge difference, Hadley explained.
“Mr. Hanson and I talked about what it was like for him to be a teacher and what it was like for me to be in high school,” Hadley shared. “He provided a safe space for me to talk and always told me I was capable of accomplishing great things. I was having issues at home and he gave me a place to process how difficult life outside of school was.”
Throughout his personal and professional life, Hadley shared that he values relationships and connection, something he can trace back to Mr. Hanson.
“If other people can show you parts of yourself that you might not see otherwise, if the way people treat you shows you the extent of what is possible, you can do amazing things,” Hadley said. “The people who have treated me well with patience and kindness have shown me that those values can transform you into someone you always wanted to be.”